The Old Age Prepper

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This blog post is a sample chapter from my book: The 20 Year Business: A Strategy to RETIRE EARLY (and STILL have it all) available on Amazon stores worldwide here.

“Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it you’ve got to start young.” Theodore Roosevelt.

Death remains a certainty. No escaping this fact – yet.

Now you might be curious as to why a 30 something Gen Y / Millennial would be writing a book about retirement and a ‘20 Year Business’ and well… fair point…

I’ll start with a true story to give some context.

Very recently I was able to get a glimpse firsthand of what the future for not only myself, but many people might hold, and let me tell you it is potentially quite grim.

My dear old father was recently the victim of blatant discrimination in ageism. In simple terms, he lost his job for being too old. Admittedly he works in a field with high manual labour components – gardening and landscaping, however, even at 61 years old he still gets around well and is in great physical condition still able to keep up with people many years younger. In this instance he was simply being replaced by a much younger man still in his teens who would be able to do more grunt work for less money.

A sound business decision perhaps with some future proofing included I suppose… the downside was that my father was on the wrong side of the equation.

At least he was given a couple of weeks’ notice to try and organise something else. Wishful thinking to be honest as Christmas was very close and never a good time to be looking for work in many circumstances.

Now within gardening and general landscape activities exist obviously a lot of opportunities for freelance work. In one of those strange happenstance / coincidences my father was at a petrol station on one of his last work days and ran into another contractor doing similar landscaping work. My father struck up a conversation, got talking shop and it turned out this business owner had just laid off another guy and said, “well this might just be your lucky day, ring me tomorrow and we will talk it over”.

My father told me this later that afternoon and it seemed like perfect timing. The proverbial one door closes another one opens.

2 days later I phoned him back to see what had happened and can you guess? The business owner told him he was too old, and that the role would be too physically demanding.

Although he didn’t show it, I later heard from another source my father was crushed by this.

It seemed his age was working alright… extremely hard against him…

Not one to be discouraged in the face of adversity (his) I took it upon myself (after I let him know what I was planning) to try Facebook and make a post in the local buy / sell page to see if anyone could help him out with work in the local area.

It went something like this:

My father has lost his job this week basically for being too old.

Yep blatant rubbish but it is what it is. he’s a hardworking man – always has been.

He had another job lined up also and that also fell through, same thing – too old. Tell you

what I’ve really had my eyes opened to what might be coming down the line when I get to his age also.

Scary stuff to be honest.

He’s a spritely 60 and in fairly good nic considering the active Life he’s led to this point.

He doesn’t use Facebook so I’m trying to see if anyone in Mandurah or surrounds might be able to give him some work.

His skills are as follows:

  • Landscaping – Mowing, Pruning, General Garden Maintenance.
  • Weed control – Removal, Spraying.
  • Retic Installation and maintenance.
  • Artificial and Turf Installation.
  • Paving Installation.
  • Plus he ran his own farm for 18 years so pretty handy with all sorts of random tasks.

If anyone out there might be able to help please pm me and I can give you his number.

Thank you in advance…

Edit: I should add that he’s looking for any sort of hours. A Day here, couple of hours there, doesn’t matter atm…

The overall response from the community was wholly positive with words of encouragement and I even passed on his number to a couple of people who said they might have some work for him. A great start I thought. I loved that the community spirit (at least some of it) was still there to help people in times of need.

What I didn’t expect however as the various conversations via comments progressed was there were several very similar stories from people in the community who were either in the same predicament or had recently been so.

Some of the conversations included examples of:

An experienced engineer who was working as a janitor.

A woman who had worked for 25 years in the community services field had been trying for over a year to find work in her field of expertise! Can you imagine that? 25 years of experience and no one wants to hire you in your own field? At the same time, this woman had another complex problem in that she was also too young to retire but had too many assets (in the government’s lens) to qualify for any welfare assistance. She was forced to survive on her savings while desperately looking for work, slowly watching them drain down to nothing whereby ironically, she might finally then be able to access welfare… Never mind all the tax she had paid for the last 25 years… it didn’t matter.

There were qualified people that were getting positive feedback from interviews but later being told that someone else was better on the day. (is this a polite way to say sorry, but no your too old?)

I also received several suggestions of varying usefulness of how my father should go about finding a job.

Quite a few people suggested starting his own business and this has merit as he already has the skills to do the day to day tasks. However, many people forget that setting up and running a business has a lot more going on behind the scenes. All the quoting and estimates, cold calls to find work, managing the finances. He will be out looking for work anyway, so it may naturally come to this in any case.

There were however actually a few suggestions that I was not aware of which I was pleasantly surprised about. It turns out there are organisations that specifically are set up to help cater to the older generation and help give the ageing populous activities to do in both volunteer and work capacities. I suppose really after thinking on this for a while it makes perfect sense as there really is a need for it.

There were also some community organisations that made it a priority to hire older people as they often had a ‘passion’ for the job (and perhaps a better work ethic?).

Some companies paid for the initial formal training prior to starting work, for example, some traffic control companies.

There appeared to be more solutions than might initially seem to find work. How relevant was this for my father… only time will tell.

I even had one chap trying to say buying Bitcoin (BTC) was a brilliant idea, a sufferer of the mania surrounding Bitcoin at the time $20,000 per token. Even when I explained my father didn’t even currently have enough money to pay for rent he countered with “it only costs $80 and to get started” and supplied a link. I know enough about Bitcoin and blockchain technology that I didn’t even bother to follow the link, it’s not something my father would ever do anyway as the technology is too advanced for him to even set up a digital wallet. I replied to the helpful chap that “Speculation is not the answer when you have no income…” and left it at that. I’m sure he will be rewarded for his free advice but not in the way he expects. (*Less than a week later BTC had dropped by 44%… I hope that he’s doing ok…).

Of course, there will be people that say, “oh just go and do something else – change industry”. Great point, but what if I told you my father doesn’t know how to use a computer?

Seriously, he wouldn’t even know how to turn on the one I am typing this book on.

In today’s job environment, there can’t be many jobs left that don’t use computers in some form or another and it’s a massive barrier to entry for many jobs.

So, it became quite apparent from the responses I was receiving that there are two extremely common issues facing the current older generation. Finding work after 50ish (using arbitrary number) and filling in that gap between then and retirement (67 for most people here in Australia) whereby people can start accessing superannuation and government aged pensions.

It is honestly not something I ever thought much about before, as I never had the need until recently. I have changed jobs twice within the last year and for the first time in both interviews, I have been asked how old I am. Never mind that technically employers cannot ask you this on grounds of discrimination, I had more concern that at 34 years old I was already being asked this question!

Off the record, I was told at the first interview that the company (a multinational I’ll add) has an unofficial hiring policy of not hiring anyone older than 35. I was at the top end of the range… wow. The reason? A combination of new graduate programs coupled with lower wages designed to retain employees for longer while keeping wages lower. Again, sound business practices as greater experience equal higher wages costs.

All the above was a massive eye-opener and a catalyst for me to find a way to ensure I don’t end up in the same situation in 27 years as my father. I may have a slight edge in that I grew up with technology so adapting is perhaps somewhat less of an issue (in a general sense).

However, following the latest trends in artificial intelligence, there may be fewer jobs for similar tasks that I would have done previously thereby making some of my previous experience also irrelevant!

This could mean I too may then be forced to either retrain into new roles and compete with people 30 years younger and much more agile physically and even mentally (due to the brains natural degradation as we age) or alternatively look after myself creating my own path and giving myself options.

Looking after myself (and my family) both now and in my later years is exactly what this whole book is about.

This blog post is a sample chapter from my book: The 20 Year Business: A Strategy to RETIRE EARLY (and STILL have it all) available on Amazon stores worldwide here.

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